As you set up your home theater, you will be taking a look at front and rear speakers that can help you to achieve a high-quality audio experience. With these speakers, you might wonder if you need a complete set or if you can work with what you already have.
Front and rear speakers do not have to match, but they work best when the front speakers match each other and the rear speakers match each other to create increased optimization and decreased localization. Use matching speakers when possible, but otherwise, ensure similar output capabilities.
Also read: Do Surround Sound Speakers Need to Match?
Of course, there are many moving parts that go into your audio system setup within your home theater. If you are new to the audio world, you are in for an adventurous ride as setting up a sound system is much more than simply plugging in a few wires and pieces of equipment.
Knowing whether or not you can use your unmatching front and rear speakers can take a bit of work. Let’s take a closer look at the ins and outs of front and rear speakers in a surround sound system.
What is the Difference between Front and Rear Speakers?
In a surround sound system, each component has a unique role and serves a distinct purpose in the overall effect and quality of the sound that the system will produce.
When one part of the system is out of whack, the sound quality will suffer for it. Knowing how to achieve high-quality sound starts first by knowing the difference in the speaker components you are choosing to use in your sound system.
Front speakers work to optimize audio in dialogue and high and mid-range audio frequencies- distinctly important for being able to clearly hear the character lines in the media you are streaming. Rear speakers focus more on mid-range and low-frequency audio that fills in the gaps and creates a more robust sound.
While you might have various speaker components set up as your front or rear speakers, you can imagine the setup as if you were attending a concert. The front is where the performance is happening.
At a concert, this would be where the band is located; in your home theater, this is where your screen is placed (so where your eyes will be fixated).
Alternatively, the rear is where the booming sound will come in to create the experience of surround sound. This is where you will hear deep bass and musical tones that heighten the audio experience but are not directly focused on the dialogue of your favorite movie (although rear speakers support mid-range frequencies, too).
In this setup, you can see that the two types of speakers serve different purposes in the entire sound system setup. Yet, without one, the other standing alone would not be able to create as much of an impact or high-quality audio experience for the listener.
With this in mind, it is important to understand what goes into setting up your front and rear speakers.
How to Use Front and Rear Speakers that Do Not Match
While using an entire surround sound system that has matching speakers will be the most optimal way to ensure that the system components work in cohesion with one another, this is not always possible.
In this case, you can use front and rear speaker sets that do not match the other, respectively, but they will need to be connected to have similar output capabilities.
Along with this, you will want to ensure that the front speakers act as a unit and the same for the rear speakers. Otherwise, you run the risk of achieving a low-quality audio experience with audio distortion, the ability to localize the sound (which you are trying to avoid), and more issues that will create a negative overall sound experience.
Still, not everyone wants to start from scratch and build their home theater surround sound system with all brand new components.
Many prefer to use the sets that they already have and run the appropriate connections to make this work. If you plan to use front and rear speakers that do not match (while still having the front as a unit and the rear as its own unit), there are several recommendations you should consider. These include:
Match the Front Speakers as a Set
When using front and rear speakers that do not match, you want to make sure that at least your front speakers match each other and the same for your rear speakers.
Having front speakers that match each other and act as a set is incredibly important for achieving the appropriate (and effective) sound quality from your front left, right, and center audio channels.
The front speakers, as mentioned above, are incredibly important for setting the tone of the audio experience. This is where the clearest dialogue is heard, and it is the most common set of speakers to have as a standalone option if you do not have the money to invest in a true surround sound system.
While the center audio channel works the hardest, arguably, as it creates distinct ranges for dialogue and mid-range and high-frequency audio, the left and right audio channels are important in their role of carrying out the rest of the audio experience.
This includes less reliance on hearing the punchline to a joke on-screen and more for the accompanying sound effects and audio that would come with it.
Using the front speakers as a set and ensuring that they are appropriately connected to a receiver/amp is incredibly important when setting up your home theater surround sound system.
Match the Rear Speakers as a Set
Along with the front speakers needing to act as a set, you need the same for the rear speakers. If you are using front and rear speakers that do not match, your rear speakers need to at least be acting as a cohesive unit (while your front speakers do the same). This includes making sure that the rear speakers work well with each other.
You can either choose to match the rear speakers by establishing the appropriate connections and output capabilities, or you can choose to use products from the same line.
Either way, whether working harder or smarter, you need to make sure that the rear speakers- which carry out the most robust low-frequency ranges (including when using your subwoofer in the back of the room)- are acting as a set.
Use Similar Manufacturers/Product Lines
One way to make sure that the front speakers match each other and the rear speakers are functioning as a cohesive unit is to use similar manufacturers or product lines.
While you can choose to manipulate your system with wired connections to the right pieces of equipment, you can make these connections easier on yourself by choosing products that were designed to work cohesively from the start.
You might find that you prefer one manufacturer and want to use front speakers that come from one product line with rear speakers that come from another. This will work as long as you are able to connect them and run the appropriate crossover to achieve a similar audio output.
You do not have to use front and rear speakers from the same manufacturer/product line, but it will make your job of setting up your home theater sound system much less complex.
Check Output Capabilities
As you manage your front and rear speakers in your sound system, you want to make sure to check the output capabilities from each set.
If you choose to use rear speakers that are far more powerful than the front speakers, for example, you will end up with an overpowering audio experience coming from behind you. To avoid the consequential poor audio experience, use speakers with similar output capabilities from the start.
Run the Appropriate Crossover
Along with using speakers with comparable output capabilities, you can help to achieve this by running the appropriate crossover.
As you establish connections between each speaker in your sound system to the receiver/amp(s) you are using, make sure that you are running the audio at similar outputs. Again, this will help to create a more balanced and high-quality audio.
Making sure that the speakers are being run at the same (or similar) output is part of decreasing localization.
Localization of speakers occurs when you are seated in your home theater and can tell exactly which speaker the audio is coming from. This is distracting as you want to process the sound as coming from either the front, rear, sides (equally), or from all around.
To decrease the localization in your sound system, you want to embrace the other suggestions on this list including making sure that the front speakers match one another and the rear speakers do, too.
Along with that, using the appropriate output and speaker placement can help you to decrease localization with unmatching front and rear speakers.
Check Speaker Placement
The speaker placement, along with the audio output of your speakers, is absolutely imperative to your overall sound quality.
If you are using unmatching front and rear speakers, it is even more important to make sure that these are set up in the right positioning for each speaker component. This will help with the cohesive production of sound as well as work to decrease the effects of localization, as mentioned above.
Use an SPL Meter to Check Audio Output
As you check the placement of each speaker, you can use an SPL meter to check the audio output from each piece of equipment.
This will help to ensure that the units are all functioning as you intended and gives tangible data to prove true what your ears may or may not be telling you about your sound from unmatching front and rear speakers.